Tag Archive 'nature writing'

Feb 04 2024

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Midwinter Daydreams

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For several weeks now, I’ve been getting up early each morning and writing about my various excursions into Adirondack backcountry during the past half dozen years. Talk about scratching an itch!

It’s the middle of a mild, somewhat dreary winter, and the world outside is mostly gray. Occasionally I venture into the cold for a long walk somewhere, but I’m really missing the lush, green seasons. Even if Vermont received enough snow to reclaim its title as a winter wonderland, I’d still be thinking green.

Last August, I ventured deep into the Silver Lakes Wilderness to a small, unassuming place called Canary Pond. There I grooved with the wild to my heart’s content. It has been foremost in my thoughts lately, as I work hard to regain my health. A bout of dizziness sent me to my doctor who, in so many words, told me that I either improve my diet or forget about doing what I love most. Ah yes, the hard choices of old age… Actually, it’s a no-brainer. I can’t afford to lose deep woods solitude. I’d go mad without it.

The wild green forest is fecund and brimming with activity in the middle of the growing season. There’s no substitute for it. Winter sports are good for one’s health, and there are no blood-sucking bugs to deal with this time of year. But being outdoors in February, well, it’s not the same as tramping through a dank forest crawling with activity. The latter is my cherished domain.

I hope to wrap up my collection of Adirondack hiking narratives soon, and get back to being fully in the here/now. Despite the cold, dreariness and lack of snow, the natural world still goes about its business. Short-eared owls have been spotted recently in the nearby Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. Judy and I have made one unsuccessful attempt to see them. It’s time to try again.

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Jan 14 2024

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Books and the Great Outdoors

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I’m back inside after a short hike on a blustery winter day and glad to be here. I’m not a winter sports enthusiast. Next month, after a good dump of snow on a sunny relatively warm day, I’ll head for the hills and do some snowshoeing. But until then, the occasional, hour-long tramp locally will do.

In January I’m more of a bookman than an outdoorsman. I stay indoors most of the day, that is, tending to my online bookselling business or doing literary work. Or reading. Yeah, I read and write mostly about the natural world while snuggled inside this time of year. That’s rather ironic, isn’t it? Come early spring, I’ll get out more – a lot more. But now I’m mostly a cerebral creature. I wonder how many other so-called nature writers operate the same way.

I take a long, hard look at the shelf full of books that I’ve written and published. Some are works by other nature writers that I’ve published via Wood Thrush Books, but most of them are mine. I currently have over 20 of my own books in print. That begs the question: How many more do I need to put out there? At this point I have several more in various stages of production. It’s crazy.

Venturing into the Great Outdoors then writing about it… I’ve been doing this for 40-odd years. One would think the well would be running dry by now. Yet with each passing year I delve deeper into nature, trying to figure out where I as a human being stand in relation to it. I’ve become more of a philosopher in the process but haven’t lost my passion for the wild. This well is bottomless, I think. My ongoing studies of natural history confirm that.

I’m just about ready to dive back into my collection of short hiking narrative set in the Adirondacks. I’ve hiked over there a lot during the past five years, venturing into wild forests and wilderness areas that are new to me. Plenty to write about. Question is: Do I hike just to have something to write about, or write only to justify these excursions deep into the wild? It cuts both ways, of course. A lot depends upon the time of year. Either way it’s a win.

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May 28 2023

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Vermont Hiking Narratives

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I’m pleased to announce the release of my collection of short hiking narratives set in Vermont. It’s called Wandering in Vermont Woods appropriately enough. A few years back, I published a collection of hiking narratives set in the Adirondacks, and that has gone over well. My bookseller friend Donna at The Eloquent Page suggested that I do the same for narratives set in Vermont – my home turf. So here it is.

This collection opens with a relatively long account of a solo excursion in the Breadloaf Wilderness 35 years ago called “Tracks Across the Forest Floor.” Some of you may remember that from a previous publication. I’ve reprinted 10 other pieces from previous publications, as well – several of those books now out of print. There are two pieces in this collection dating back over 20 years that haven’t been published until now, and three brand new pieces seeing print for the very first time. It’s quite a mix, actually. But the spirit of the wild graces them all.

The Long Trail, southern Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom, or close to home – I’m all over the map in this collection. Sometimes backpacking; other times just out for the day. Sometimes bushwhacking; occasionally trout fishing some mountain brook. Usually alone, but not always. Sometimes contemplating philosophical matters while banging around in the Green Mountains; often just being being in the moment. Always the woods wanderer.

You can get a copy from Amazon.com, or by going to the Wood Thrush Books website. I hope this book inspires some of you to venture into the woods this summer. There’s nothing else quite like a little time spent in a wild place.

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Nov 07 2022

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Nature Writing by t. kilgore splake

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I am pleased to announce the release of a third Wood Thrush Books title this year. This one’s called Escape to the Wild: the nature poetry and prose of t. kilgore splake. During the summer I culled nature-related pieces from over a hundred of splake’s books and chapbooks, added an introduction, then put this book into production. The first shipment arrived on my doorstep a few days ago, so now it’s in print.

I visited splake during my big road trip earlier this year, driving all the way to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to see the man in his natural habitat. I had been thinking about compiling his nature-related work before that, but the trip pushed me over the edge.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, t. kilgore splake is a boho-beat poet well-known and widely published in the small press world. I’ve been following his work for over two decades. His nature-related verse, while only a fraction of what he has written, really resonates with me. I think some of his short narratives about excursions into the wild are engaging, as well. Hence the compilation of this book.

splake’s take on the wild is quite different from most. That’s what I find so interesting about him – that and the fact that extended camping trips in the UP when he was younger completely changed his life. I strongly urge those of you who want to see the power of nature at work upon an individual’s psyche to check out this book. You can get a copy by going to the Wood Thrush Books website. It is also available at Amazon.com.  

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Oct 03 2020

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Restless in Autumn

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For six days in a row, I have been all wrapped up in my philosophical speculations, writing about Nature spelled with a capital “N.” Haven’t gotten out for much more than the occasional walk around the neighborhood in the process. Well, this morning I finally put on my boots and headed for the hills – for nearby hills to be exact.

French Hill is a pocket of undeveloped woods only half a dozen miles from my home. After parking my car along the side of a road adjacent to it, I walked a track a quarter mile back. Then I started bushwhacking. Most of the time I hike well-established trails like most other hikers, but every once in a while, I need to get off the beaten path. Bushwhacking is the best way to do that.

With a large pond in sight, it was easy to keep my bearings. I have done this tramp many times before so I knew that all I had to do was circumnavigate the pond and I’d eventually hit the track leading me back out to my car. Simple.

With the sky overcast and temps in the 50s after a day of rain, the woods were cool and damp. Not that I minded that. I stopped once to ritually burn a copy of a book that I’ve recently published, but stayed on the move otherwise. The hike kept me warm.

Just north of the pond, I came to a smaller annex pond created by beavers a few years ago. Unattended and overgrown with grass, cattails and other vegetation, I couldn’t see the dam at first. But when I finally found it, I crossed over with little difficulty. I stopped on the dam long enough to enjoy the fiery orange, gold and rust foliage on the far side of the larger pond. Here in the Champlain Valley, the autumn colors are nearing peak. Stick season can’t be far away.

Finally returning to my car, I drove home feeling much better. Writing about nature is like scratching an itch. It’s rewarding to do this kind of writing, but there’s nothing like the real thing. Have to get out every once in a while.

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Jan 18 2019

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Nature Writing

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It’s a strange thing indeed to be a nature writer. My subject is the great outdoors – that magnificent wildness – but I do most of my work indoors while staring at a computer screen. Hard to imagine a more contrary vocation. There are times, especially in the dead of winter, when I question my motives, my own sincerity regarding this. Is writing about nature really what I’m all about? Then comes the great thaw at the end of winter and the reawakening of the natural world in early spring and there’s no doubt in my mind where my heart lies.

It’s my obsession, no doubt. While I read all kinds of books, few subjects captivate me the way a good piece of nature writing does. I’m inspired more by Emerson and Thoreau than by eminent philosophers like Kant, Hegel or Rousseau. The essays and narratives of John Burroughs, Farley Mowat, Richard Nelson, Annie Dillard and the like edify me more than the best fiction writers ever could. I take Copernicus, Darwin and Einstein more seriously than the greatest sage, and the poets who celebrate them are my prophets. There are the innumerable worlds that we can imagine, then there is nature – the world as it really is. I have an insatiable appetite for the latter.

Whenever I am not tramping through the wild lands of the northeast, I work with books. As a bookseller, I sell all kinds of books, but I make only nature-related titles available at my website, woodthrushbooks.com. There I sell every kind of nature writing imaginable, including what I’ve written myself, or what some of my friends and favorite writers have written. Through my small press, Wood Thrush Books, I publish the same. Every once in a while I put together an anthology of contemporary nature writing, if only to bring to light some of the lesser-known writers in the field. And I love doing all of it – bookselling, publishing, editing, and writing about nature. I’m lucky that way, I guess.

Yeah, it’s a strange thing to be a nature writer – to write about the natural world as if it really mattered. There is also the human world, of course, but what I find interesting about that is human nature. And what I find most interesting of all is how we humans interact with the natural world. Is there anything that better illustrates what we are all about? I think not.

 

 

 

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May 29 2017

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New Anthology in Print

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The World Engaged, the new Wood Thrush Books anthology of nature writing, is now available. I collected work for it for nearly two years, and spent the past three months putting it together. So I’m very pleased to finally have this book in print.

Unlike previous WTB anthologies, this one is a full-length book: 158 pages of nature-related poetry and prose. 23 contributors. Some of them have had their work showcased by WTB before: Howard Nelson, Benjamin Green, Michael Jewell, and Helen Ruggieri to name a few. But there are new voices in this anthology as well: Susan Cohen, Stuart Bartow, Vicki Graham and half a dozen more. And a piece by yours truly, of course.

This time the selections are as diverse as possible, from deeply personal accounts to philosophical rumination, from conventional writing to the experimental, and touching upon a wide variety of subjects. Everyone has a different way of engaging the natural world and I wanted this anthology to reflect that.

You can get this book at the Wood Thrush Books website. I just posted it. Or you can get it from Amazon.com. It’s available there print-on-demand. Either way, you’ll have it in about a week. Enjoy.

 

 

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Feb 07 2017

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Burroughs Book Finally in Print

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At long last, the Burroughs book is in print. I’ve been reading his essays for decades, and toying with the idea of selecting and publishing excerpts from his work for nearly that long. He wrote over 30 books on nature. I’ve been crazy enough to read most of them.

The full title of this book is Universal Nature: Philosophical Fragments from the Writings of John Burroughs. As the title suggests, the excerpts I have selected tend towards the abstract. While Burroughs was the master of the quaint nature essay – quite often writing about songbirds – he delved deeply into philosophical matters as well.  In his later years he became interested in the tension between science and religion. His was an utterly naturalistic worldview, of course, so he leaned as heavily towards pantheism as I do. Hence my obsession with him.

While Burroughs comes off as a simple, white-bearded countryman observing birds and the like, he was a surprisingly complex character in real life. My biographical introduction puts his work in context, showing how his thoughts emerged from friendships, travels and fruit farming in addition to extensive reading. The excerpts are organized chronologically, making it clear how his perception of wild nature evolved over time from the particular to the universal.

You can get a copy by going to my website WoodThrushBooks.com. It is also available at Amazon. I hope you find the natural philosophy of John Burroughs as intriguing as I have.

 

 

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Jan 10 2016

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New WTB Website

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Wood-ThrushThe renovated Wood Thrush Books website, featuring used books on a variety of nature-related subjects, is now up and running!

Many of you have been hearing about this undertaking for months. With Judy’s help, I’ve finally turned a quasi-professional site into a bona fide online bookstore.

To be honest, Judy did all the heavy lifting. She reconfigured the site so that browsing it is easy and making a purchase is even easier. All I did was upload a bunch of cover photos and book blurbs, which has been more time consuming than difficult.

There are over 150 books at the site now, between used books and those published by WTB, and more on the way. Shipping is included, making these books quite affordable. The inventory system lets you know when a book is out-of-stock, and a third party securely handles credit cards. We can even do returns.

I am quite pleased to provide a place where readers can browse good books about the natural world, from classic and contemporary nature writing, to ecology, natural history, wilderness travel, wildlife, and even astronomy. So check it out: WoodThrushBooks.com

 

 

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Jun 16 2015

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A Major Lifestyle Change

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BooksAmMktTwo weeks ago, I did something I have been dreaming about doing for years. I stopped working for other people and got back into the bookselling business.

It began innocently enough. In April I posted several of my older books to Amazon.com, thereby making them available to a lot more readers. Go to Amazon, punch in my name, and most of my published work will come up now.

That in itself felt like a major accomplishment – something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Then I took things a step further. I posted a bunch of other books to Amazon Marketplace, just to see if I could sell them that way. When orders started coming in, I was beside myself. I started buying and posting more and more books. Then two weeks ago, everything changed. That’s when I lost my job at the UPS Store. That’s when Judy suggested I take the next four months to focus on building the online bookselling business instead of looking for another job. I said we should sleep on it. When I got up the next morning, Judy gave me the high sign. Then I set to work like a man possessed.

For quite some time now, Judy and I have been toying with the idea of having a retail operation in our latter years. But the more we looked into it, the less a bricks-and-mortar store appealed to us. Online seems a better way to go.

I love books. I like reading, writing and publishing them. And yes, even selling them. Some of you will remember when I had a store full of used books. That was back in the 80s. Well, it looks like things have come full circle.

Naturally I favor outdoor/nature books, but I’m trading in a little bit of everything these days. Eventually, Judy and I will rebuild the Wood Thrush Books website so that we can sell new, used and remaindered books by other publishers there along with the titles that I publish. All nature-related stuff, of course. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I’m hustling to make this business fly. Wish me luck.

 

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